By George Simms, Abi Curran, and Harvey Stevens
What the BUCS?
Team Durham compete in the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) league, with over 50 different sports on offer. ‘BUCS Points’ are totalled up from all sports competing and compiled into a league.
The 2020-21 season was scrapped due to Covid-19 and the 2019-20 season was suspended in March with the points table voided. Before the suspension of play, Durham had come second in the overall BUCS rankings in seven of the previous eight seasons. Durham prides itself on being the number one team sports university.
One team to look out for this season is the men’s rugby team, who will be looking to retain the title of BUCS champions. With the return of spectators post-lockdown, watching the rugby team is always a thrilling occasion. Whether they are playing at Maiden Castle or at Durham City Rugby Club near the Racecourse, be sure to head down to watch the club in action.
The wealth of sporting options that Team Durham offers means that competing against other universities is easier than ever to get involved with. The majority of clubs accept new members of all abilities and experience, so throw yourself into something new.
The term ‘varsity’ may be familiar to many in the field of early 2000s chick flick films or even the trendy jacket. But at Durham, varsity is the sporting pride and joy of the University and its colleges.
Each sports club within Durham enters teams to play head to heads in their respective sports. The teams compete against rival university clubs in a league to determine the winner. Over the years, Durham has played host to Northern rivals York and also the sporting titans of the university sphere, Loughborough. The phrase ‘got to beat Loughborough’ is well worn in Durham, and it is this competitive edge that carries into college varsity.
College varsity boasts sporting excellence, pride and, let’s say, an unpredictable range of results. From badminton to hockey, rugby to ultimate frisbee, varsity is definitely something to get involved with. Not to mention intercollegiate rivalry, where each college is paired off with their own varsity rival.
One of these rivalries is the historic Castle-Hatfield sporting feud, and other more recent battles on the hill have their own competitive flare, just like that between Josephine Butler and Stephenson. Above all, college varsity brings about a real sense of community within each college.
Durham’s Sunday League
Whilst BUCS is Durham’s Premier League, college sport is a lot more like Sunday League. There are few feats more impressive than watching someone who’s gone to bed at 5am on eight pints and half a bottle of tequila whip a free-kick into the top corner at 8am the next morning, but that’s the real heart of college sport.
Often as much about the social side as the sports themselves, college sport is a great way to get exercise, meet new people and just have fun. All colleges have teams in pretty much all mainstream sports. Some smaller colleges, like St. Chad’s and St. John’s for example, set up joint teams to make sure they’ve got the numbers to compete with bigger colleges like Collingwood and Van Mildert.
Training tends to be one night a week, with either weekly or biweekly socials for most clubs too. You get as much out of college sport as you choose to put in. If you want to play your sports to a high level, but don’t have the time, or inclination, to play at BUCS level, then the standard of A-team college sport is usually still very high, with a lot of teams still training multiple times a week.
However, if all you’re looking for is a game at the weekend, or even just a chance to meet some new people, then college sport is brilliant at catering for a variety of abilities and levels of caring. Collingwood famously put out football teams from A-M and a lot of colleges have five or more darts teams.
If you join one of the more niche sports, like Fives or Quidditch, you can boast about making a University team with minimal effort. It’s never too late to get involved in your college sports teams and you’ll never lose anything but just turning up to training to see what it’s like.
All college sports teams are entered into leagues, where they play teams of a similar level from other colleges. The pinnacle of college sport is the Floodlit Cup, played throughout first and second term. The semis and final normally become a big event for the colleges involved, with hundreds of students heading down to Maiden Castle (or MC) for a night under the hallowed lights.
What you really need to know
Wednesday night is the sports clubs’ traditional night out. You’ll see hordes of students in fancy dress, often chanting the name of an obscure club to try and put any potential authorities off the scent. To the 35 blokes dressed as nuns rolling down the Bailey, we know you’re not ‘Chad’s Ping Pong’.
Despite the University’s efforts, initiations, or ‘welcome drinks’, are still very much a part of sporting life in Durham. Whilst they can be a lot of fun if done right, don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Know your boundaries and limits and make sure other people respect them.
Your favourite sport hasn’t made it to Durham yet? You can apply to Team Durham, or your college, to get a team set up in whichever sport you love. Just last year, Durham University Floorball Society was founded, and an eSports team has recently become part of Team Durham.
University is a great place to try pick up a new sport or hobby: it can massively enrich your university experience and is one of the best ways to make friends. From Ultimate Frisbee to Polo, Durham has something for everyone. If in doubt, try everything and see what sticks!
Illustration: Rosie Bromiley